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William J. Kirkpatrick

William James Kirkpatrick (February 27, 1838 – September 20, 1921) was born in the Parish of Errigal, Keerogue, County Tyrone, Ireland to a schoolteacher and musician, Thomas Kirkpatrick and his wife, Elizabeth Storey. The family immigrated to Philadelphia on August 5, 1840, living first in Duncannon, PA. William did not accompany his parents on the initial immigration as he was too young and they wished to be settled before bringing him to America. They did, however, give birth to a daughter on the ship in transit. William was exposed to and given formal training in music at a very young age. In 1854, he moved to Philadelphia to study music and carpentry. It was here that he studied vocal music under Professor T. Bishop. Kirkpatrick was a versatile musician playing the cello, fife, flute, organ, and violin. He joined the Harmonia and the Haydn Sacred Music Societies where he was exposed to many great composers. In 1855, he became involved in the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Church serving the choir with his musical talent and teaching Sunday school.

Beginning in 1858, Kirkpatrick began working with A.S. Jenks who helped him publish his first collection of hymns, Devotional Melodies, in 1859. His involvement with the Harmonia Society introduced him to another man, Dr. Leopold Meignen, under whose tutelage he devoted himself primarily to the study of music focusing on theory and composition.

In 1861, William Kirkpatrick married his first wife. Not long after the marriage, he enlisted in the 91st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers as a Fife-Major. This lasted until October 1862, when under general orders, the position was terminated. He returned to Philadelphia and supported his wife by working in carpentry. Over the next 11 years, Kirkpatrick was elected lead organist for the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church, studied the pipe organ, continued in vocal lessons, and began publishing more and more hymns. It was also during this time that he was introduced to John R. Sweeney. They soon became partners in their musical careers. The death of Kirkpatrick’s wife in 1878 acted as a catalyst in his life to give up the trade and devote himself fully to music and composition.

Between 1880 and 1897, Sweeney and Kirkpatrick published 49 major books. It was also during this time that Kirkpatrick was given command over all of the music at Grace Methodist Episcopal church. He married again in 1893 and became a world traveler with his wife. Over the years he published close to 100 major works and many annual works such as anthems for Easter, Christmas, and children’s choirs.

William J. Kirkpatrick died on September 20, 1921. He told his wife that night that he had a tune running through his head and he wanted to write it down before he lost it. His wife retired to bed and awoke in the middle of the night to find that he was not there. She went to his study to find him, and when she did, he was slumped over on his desk, dead. His interment was located in West Laurel Hill Cemetery near Philadelphia.

Birth and Death Data: Born 1838, Died 1921

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1907 - 1929

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer, lyricist


Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor B-4589 10-in. 6/14/1907 Lord, I'm coming home Frederic Freemantel Male vocal solo, with orchestra lyricist, composer  
Victor B-21483 10-in. 3/4/1918 Lord, I'm coming home Harry McClaskey Male vocal solo, with orchestra composer, lyricist  
Columbia 81276 10-in. 10/11/1923 Lord, I'm coming home Oscar Seagle Baritone vocal solo, with orchestra composer, lyricist  
Columbia 81511 10-in. 1/31/1924 He hideth my soul William McEwan Male vocal solo, with orchestra composer  
Columbia 30324 12-in. 12/8/1909 Jesus is my light and song Gipsy Smith Male vocal solo, with piano composer  
Columbia W147353 10-in. 10/30/1928 Lord, I'm coming home Smith’s Sacred Singers Male vocal ensemble, with fiddle (violin) and piano composer, lyricist  
Brunswick E30170 10-in. 6/20/1929 ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus Old Southern Sacred Singers Male vocal quartet, with organ composer  
Brunswick E30175 10-in. 6/21/1929 Lord, I’m coming home Old Southern Sacred Singers Male vocal quartet, with organ composer, lyricist  
Edison 8214 10-in. 9/13/1921 We have an anchor Thomas Chalmers Male vocal solo and mixed vocal trio, with orchestra composer  
Edison 8507 10-in. 6/27/1922 Give me thy heart George E. Nhare ; Louise Collins Nhare Vocal duet (soprano and tenor), with orchestra composer  
Edison 18483 10-in. 5/10/1928 Lord, I'm coming home Vernon Archibald ; Calvary Choir Male vocal solo and mixed vocal chorus, with orchestra composer, lyricist  
Edison N-244 10-in. 5/10/1928 Lord, I'm coming home Vernon Archibald ; Calvary Choir Male vocal solo and mixed vocal chorus, with orchestra composer, lyricist  


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Kirkpatrick, William J.," accessed September 19, 2021,

Kirkpatrick, William J.. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from

"Kirkpatrick, William J.." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 19 September 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier



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